Monday, January 31, 2011

KIDS in the March for Life

Gabbi, Bella and Christina arrive at the Mall. 
The event after my EWTN interview with Teresa Tomeo (one of our group recorded it and posted it on Facebook, you can view it here) went very well, thanks be to God.

The EWTN area where Leticia filmed her KIDS interview. 
Leticia discussing Dr Lejeune with Valerie Guilloux and Rep McMorris Rogers. 
Gabbi filming the presentation of "Life is a Blessing"
 I came in ten minutes late, huffing and puffing, after having walked rapidly the entire 9 blocks between the EWTN interview location and the National Right to Life Headquarters, but I was thrilled to introduce Rep McMorrisRogers to Valerie Guilloux of the Lejeune Foundation. she presented the Congresswoman with a copy of "Life is a Blessing", some brochures and a press kit. I hope that this is the beginning of a fruitful relationship between the founder of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus and the Jerome Lejeune Foundation in the US. 

The KIDS marchers with Rep McMorris Rogers
We videotaped the entire event, and will be producing a short documentary on the KIDS participation in the March, so you can see it and share it with that big homeschooling group when its done. I would love to meet Dr Bruchalski after my back is recovered. My doctor, Dr Judith Mascolo, who was with me in the interview has put me on travel restrictions for three months. She said my back is completely stress related! Wonder where she got that idea?!
 After Rep McMorris Rogers left, I had some down time to eat and chat with Valerie Guilloux. She and her husband, Jean-Marc, are the contact people for the Jerome Lejeune Foundation in the USA. 

Eddie Sloan on dad Neil's shoulder. 
 By the time we marched, we were only Dr Judtih Mascolo, and her two daughters, Neil and Melissa Sloan and their two kids, and me and my three girls, and one of Gabbi's college friends. The six young men from Catholic University's branch of the Order of Alhambra (Catholic fraternal order which cares for the intellectually disabled) had begun to march already. My Christina refused to join the March as it was too noisy and congested, so we walked on the sidewalk alongside, with me coaxing her block by block. I miss the days she used a stroller!

Rep Cathy McMorris Rogers (center) with Leticia and family.
We didn't want to get stuck in the bottleneck in front of the Supreme Court, so, after interviewing the Neil and Melissa Sloan for the documentary, and meeting Monica, a contributor to my book A Special Mother is Born, we filmed a few minutes of the thousands of young marchers surging up Capitol Hill,  we headed for the Hyatt, and met many old friends and new ones. I got to chat with recent convert to the pro-life cause and the Catholic Church, and author of "Unplanned", Abby Johnson, and her husband. He shared how happy he was when his wife left her job at Planned Parenthood, and she shared how it was the loving, prayerful pro-life protesters who touched her heart. "The harsh ones, carrying bloody signs only hardened my resolve to keep doing what I was doing," she said. 
 I was able to tell  Terri Schiavo's mom Mary. Schindler how sorry I was for the loss of her beloved daughter and husband, Robert, who died this year, and how, as the mother of a special needs child, her daughter's murder was personal to me. I told her how we made a three foot by 12 foot sign saying "Save Terri" and held it on the Supreme Court steps while praying the rosary in her final days. Mary was moved by this, and came over to meet Christina.
We also met our friend, Good Counsel Homes Director Chris Bell and his sister-in-laws who wrote "The Caterpillar who Went to Church": series. I told them how their book was instrumental in helping me catechized Christina regarding the Blessed Sacrament, preparing her for her First Holy Communion, and Susan Brindle gave me a book which compiles all there sacrament stories into one. The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who run Morningstar Camp and the Franciscans of the Immaculate from Airmaria were also with us. Such saints among us!
Then, completely exhausted, we took the Metro to our hotel. The Metro was thick with priests and leftover marchers, and two lovely Virgina gentlemen gave up their seats for my young daughters. Southern hospitality at its best!
 The girls went out with Judy for pizza near the hotel which was buzzing with fraternity and sorority events (we were on the campus of George Washington University) I remained behind in the hotel with Christina, with a cold compress on my swollen feet, on my bed, trying to relax a back strung tighter than a violin, while trying in vain to find news coverage of the March on TV. Maybe that wasn't the most relaxing thing to do!
The next morning, we got a mistaken wake-up call at 7AM, tried to shower with limited hot water (the hotel had a boiler crisis) and at 9:40 got on the road. We picked up our camera equipment at National Right to Life Committee Headquarters, and some coffee, and made our last DC stop at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, where a new president was being installed in a Mass. The girls toured the Basilica while I interviewed (by phone) Fr Gary Thomas on whose experience the new film "The Rite" is based. See the interview here. 

We installed new windshield wipers on the van since my husband advised us we were heading towards snowstorms up north, and Gabbi my 18 year old was driving  ecause of my back spasms. I am in awe of her steady nerves, and common sense. Near the end of our trip, my back was feeling better and I offered to drive, however she insisted, saying, "I want to say I drove the entire journey in both directions".
Leticia and Abby Johnson, author of "Unplanned"
She did it, however we were disheartened that we arrived at the Charter TV studio too late to tape an interview on the March, because of our many stops. 
We promised to do a show for "The Face of Pro-life" next month, including our film clips. We will be sharing links to it here. 
It was a fruitful and blessed trip to the March for Life. 

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Leticia, Friar Roderic Burke, FI, and Good Counsel Homes Chris Bell. 
Mary Schindler, Leticia and Christina

Friday, January 28, 2011

My EWTN interview will be aired tomorrow at 4:30

I was interviewed with KIDS member Dr Judith Mascolo
by Teresa Tomeo as part of the live EWTN coverage of the March for Life on Saturday, January 29 at 2PM.
Our interview, which was very brief, was done immediately after the Verizon Center Mass. I estimate that it will be aired between 4:30 and 5PM EST tomorrow, Saturday Jan 29.
Go here to watch EWTN on your computer if you do not have the channel on TV.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

No More "Mental Retardation." So?

No More "Mental Retardation." So? is my now-famous essay reprinted in National Right to Life News with charming photos of my girls.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Two steps away from fame

If you read Michelle Malkin's brilliant piece on the Philadelphia horror, Dr Kermit Gosnell, you will she that she quotes from The Anchoress. article on Gosnell, calling it a 'must read'. In her article on abortion and the Gosnell scandal, The Anchoress, quotes from my Patheos column, "No More Mental Retardation, So?"
Being only two links from Michelle Malkin was an honor and, becaue of that,  my Patheos column shot up to the top ten.
That and the fact that I had my first EWTN interview at the March for Life are breathtaking opportunities to remember the generosity of God. You say "yes" to Him and the results will surpass your wildest imagination.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

KIDS events in DC on January 24, the March for Life

Agenda for National Right to Life Committee Headquarters at 512 10th Street, Washington DC
  • 10:45 - Melissa and Neil Sloan will be at NRLC by 10:45 to greet KIDS families.
  • 11:00  KIDS families may start arriving. at 512 10th St, NW Washington, DC
  • 11:00-11:30 - Leticia is meeting EWTN for an interview behind the stage of the March for Life at the Mall and 4th Street. 
  • ALL KIDS members are welcome to join us and hold signs for the interview. 
  •  Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers will arrive at 12:15  for a brief update on her work on behalf of our children
  • Madame Valerie Guilloux of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation will address the group and present Congresswoman McMorris Rogers with a copy of "Life is a Blessing".
  • After a brief brunch, KIDS families will march!

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Welcome Patheos readers!

If you have come here for the first time via my guest column at Patheos, "No More 'Mental Retardation', So?" Welcome. You have found my online home, the place where Christina and I share her life publicly in order to give people an peak into ordinary life of a family with a child with Down syndrome. To dispel the myths about how difficult this is, and to put a human face on people with Down syndrome. When I was in my 20's we had the example of Corky, a teenager with Down syndrome played by Chris Burke in TV series "Life Goes On" whose mom, played by Patti LuPone, shared the ups and downs of raising a son with some limitations but endless possibilities. Now, thanks to the internet, you have Christina at Cause of Our Joy.

Its a snowy New England morning at sunrise, as the snow falls silently outdoors, and Christina is sleeping beside me, snoring gently. She doesn't know it yet, but today is a snow day. She will be thrilled, she has all day to spend playing in the snow chasing our golden retriever Molly,  or cuddled up with her sisters under blankets on the couch watching our latest family DVD, "Despicable Me". She has learned to imitate the nerdy villain Vector's signature move, swaying her hips as she pulls down her clenched fists saying "Oh YEAH!" It never fails to crack us up.
My toes curl in anticipation of the fun we'll have, but as a writer mom, I have to steal a few precious moments to record the joy. For you, for my distant family members, and for posterity. Christina is an endangered species, and this thought started my writing career in 2005, when she was three.
I had tried to share about being the mother of a child with Down syndrome in other, more personal ways, through my pediatrician, my local hospital, my OB, but my offers to mentor other mothers were met with stony silence. I didn't pretend to offer medical advice, just the everyday stories from one mom to another.

 I remembered how much help Margaret was to me, when as the anxious mother of a newborn with Down syndrome (I had refused pre-natal tests on principle) a priest from my parish phoned me and offered her phone number as a resource. She answered my fevered questions with a calm, matter-of-fact attitude which in itself calmed my fears. Her daughter, Kristin, was a busy, happy 20 year old. She graduated high school, was adored by her 9 siblings, was Godmother to various nieces and nephews, and each day, walked to work in her local bakery, where she bags bread. She never missed a day of work, and was planning a huge 21st birthday party. Life was full of ordinary happiness for this extraordinary young woman.

So, when my attempts to share Christina's story were frustrated, my mother came to the rescue. She gave me a book, "Life is a Blessing" the biography of French geneticist and Servant of God, Dr Jerome Lejeune. It was written shortly after his death by his daughter Clara as a memoir for her newborn daughter, and it became my inspiration. Dr Lejeune discovered in 1958, that Down syndrome was caused by an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. He dedicated the rest of his career as a doctor and researcher to finding a cure for this disorder. Not because he felt that our children were inferior, but because others did, and when abortion was legalized in France, children with Down syndrome became an endangered species. He died in 1994 from cancer, feeling that he was abandoning his patients. Eleven years later, I felt a call to make this legacy known, not just for the promise of a cure from the effects of Trisomy 21, but so that society might learn from his love of our children to value them as they are.

Writing for six years has led to me to Hollywood, where, on the Fox Movie Lot, I attended an opening for "Mr Blue Sky" a film about a young lady with Down syndrome who married a typical man. It brought me to Washington, where, for three years, my friend Eileen and I have led KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome) in the March for Life. This year, I am going to be interviewed for the second time on EWTN(this photo is of Eileen Haupt and I with "Faith and Culture" series hostess, Colleen Carroll Campbell in St Louis this November), as part of the March for Life Coverage. For three years, I have been collecting stories of Catholic famlies who are blessed with a special needs child for a book entitled, "A Special Mother is Born" to be published by WestBow Press this winter. I have published articles on Down syndrome research and Dr Lejeune in various periodicals and websites, and appeared as a guest on podcasts and radio shows. When you say "yes" to God, despite your lack of time and  your keen awareness of your personal shortcomings, He does amazing things. Sometimes, I still have to pinch myself, saying, "Is this really my life?"

But despite all these amazing events, last weekend, an event in New York City, within an hour from where I grew up on Long Island, was the pinnacle of my experience as a writer/advocate. I was able to hear Clara Lejeune Gaymard, the daughter of my hero, Dr Jerome Lejeune, give a talk about her father's life. And afterwards, I was able to interview her for the National Catholic Register. As we completed the interview, Clara shared how although her father's cause for canonization, opened on June 28, 2007 has not had any official cures yet to advance him to beatification, there have been many people whose lives he has profoundly changed after his death. I told her mine as one of them, and the thrill in her eyes, as I told her it was her book and her father's example which inspired me to begin my long delayed writing career, was the greatest honor I have achieved. I met Madame Lejeune, the late doctor's widow, and her other daughter Karin, both of whom warmly embraced me as part of the family. They embraced me first of all because I have a daughter with Down syndrome, then for my contribution to Dr Lejeune's legacy with my article Down Not Out.
Look at this photo of my worn copy of "Life is a Blessing". My mother, Clara, and her mother have all signed it. It is treasured evidence of God's work in my life,and on behalf of our children.
We are a family, those of us who are working to further his legacy and save the children he called his dear little ones.Now the Foundation Lejeuene is opening a branch in the US, in order to help fund over 91 research programs which it supports here. None of these researchers use embryonic stem cells, and many are quite promising.I will keep you posted on the Foundation's progress here, and tell you how to donate.
At the March for Life, I will be hading out thousands of pamphlets with 21 sayings of Dr Lejeune. I will be posting them one by one here.
But I have to stop now. Christina is stirring, and soon another day with her will begin. Thank you for taking time to read this. Look out for news of the publication of my book A Special Mother is Born. Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, Superior of the Sisters of Life wrote an amazing foreword, former Senator Rick Santorum has a chapter about his daughter Bella, and my story of Christina, is accompanied by 31 stories of emotional courage which make me proud to wear the badge of special needs mother. Some are professional writers whom you will recognize, like Barbara Curtis, Jelly Mom Lisa Barker,  and Melissa Wiley. and all are heroes of their domestic church.
Leave me a comment below to say 'hi', and spread the word. Our children are blessings to the world, but first of all to their families.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Our "Goodness Reigns" film has been finished and shipped!

This is where I have been for about four days, hidden deep in the bowels of the editing room, putting together what we hope will be an award winning entry for the wonderful Goodness Reigns Catholic Film Competition.
Gabbi came up with our theme; Our Extra Special Missionary because Christina is a missionary of love just by being herself and teaching others to love and accept those with special needs, but in addition, her ability to love others and relate to God are extraordinary. We hope our film was able to do this justice in only 7 minutes. It was quite a challenge to these novice filmakers, we are no Franco Zeffirellis!
Here is the thumbnail Gabbi chose for our film, Our Extra Special Missionary.

We filmed, we worked, we prayed, and, today at 4:45 PM,  banged on the door to make the poor postmaster in our small town re-open 15 minutes past closing time, to get that all-important Jan 10th postmark to enter the contest.
WE DID IT! Many thanks to Fr Tito and Christina's special ed teacher Maura, to Irina and Josh for burning our photos into DVDs, we owe this to your cooperation.
Gabbi went to adoration to thank Jesus, and I collapsed on the sofa, and thanked our little movie star, by giving her some long overdue attention.
We'll link to the film when its up on the site.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

KIDS will be marching in the March for Life this year!

Let us know if you'll be joining us, and spread the word.
 Eileen Haupt: 802-899-4882
Leticia Velasquez: 860-336-1835


KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome), a group comprised of families who have children with Down syndrome, will meet for the third year in a row and walk together in the 2011 March for Life in Washington, D.C.

DATE & TIME: Monday, January 24, 2011, 11:00 a.m. to Noon

LOCATION: National Right to Life Committee, 512 10th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.

PURPOSE: Meet for refreshments prior to walking together in the 2011 March for Life

This event is open to individuals with Down syndrome and their families and friends.

KIDS aims to raise awareness about the tragic 90% abortion rate of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome, to challenge the misinformation that often leads mothers to abort their babies with Down syndrome, and to proclaim the joy their children bring to their families and communities!

Through the generosity of the National Right to Life Committee, we have a convenient location to congregate, just blocks from the start of the march, and sandwiches and refreshments to enjoy before we join the march.

For more information please contact Eileen Haupt or Leticia Velasquez.

Eileen Haupt Leticia Velasquez

802-899-4882 860-336-1835

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Our entry for the "Goodness Reigns" Catholic Film Competition

Gabbi is going to get the TV camera and studio lights, and my stomach has butterflies. Not nervous ones, creative ones! She is entering a short (7 minute) film in the "Goodness Reigns" Catholic film competition which was featured on EWTN.
Our topic is Christina, the 8 year old missionary, about how her smile, her charm and her love win over hearts and minds to the idea that having a child with Down syndrome is NOT the worst thing that can happen to a family. That indeed, these children are blessings to their famlies, and should be welcomed with open arms. That she is a gift from the Hand of God who helps others see His Face just by being herself.

We'll let you know when its up on their website.

Please pray for these novice filmakers to have the Holy Spirit operating the cameras.
The first prize is four trips to World Youth Day in Madrid this summer, but we are happy just getting this important message known both online and on Charter Television.

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Help build a special needs accessible playground

Do a good deed today, vote in the Pepsi Refresh 250K grant comptetition for a special needs accessible playground in Ohio.
Click on the button over at My Little Saint. You have to sign in, but its relatively painless and you can do so much good.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

January is devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus

The month of January is devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus,
here is a meditation from Mary Vitamin about Our Lady, the first human to revere the Holy Name of Jesus. She revered Him from the moment of the incarnation in her womb when He was hidden to all.

"Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High..."
Luke 1:30-32
Our Lady was the first to revere the Holy Name of Jesus. She began to do this as soon as the angel revealed the Sacred Name. All during the arduous journey into the hill country of Judah , on her errand of charity, She kept the Sacred Name within Her heart. When Our Lady arrived at the house of Zecharias and greeted  Elizabeth , Our Lady,  revealed the secret Her Immaculate heart pondered during the journey:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour

Holy is His name.
Magnificat Luke 1:46-55

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